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Editorial: Let voters select their candidates

Editorial: Let voters select their candidates

Take control over candidates away from party leaders, give power to voters
Editorial: Let voters select their candidates
Herman D. Farrell Jr., then a state assemblyman, at the site of a planned pedestrian bridge he pushed for in New York.
Photographer: Bryan Thomas/The New York Times

State party leaders are subverting the democratic process.

And they’re doing it right in front of our faces while we sit by and let them.

A New York Times article on Tuesday spotlighted the problem of political party leadership hand-picking candidates and avoiding primary elections by timing the departure of elected officials to avoid party primaries.

This allows party leaders to appoint the party standard-bearer for November from a list of carefully groomed candidates who elbow their way up the party hierarchy.

In the past, this has resulted in candidates’ children being selected to succeed their parent, or a favored staff member, or a well-heeled lobbyist or someone rewarded for years of demonstrated party loyalty.

It’s even allowed politicians evicted from their office due to political corruption to select their own successor, perpetuating the line of malfeasance and corruption.

Once the person has the appointment to the valuable party line on the general election ballot and can run in the general election as the incumbent, it’s virtually impossible for challengers within the party and from other parties to unseat them, especially in heavily gerrymandered districts that effectively give control to a single political party.

This all happens without a single citizen casting a single vote. According to the Times article, 30 percent of our state representatives have gotten their jobs this way.

Does that sound like democracy to you? Does that sound like your constitutional right to participate in free and fair elections is being honored and respected? Do you think this results in the best candidates, and therefore the best government?

Not to us it doesn’t.

The proof is in the most dysfunctional, corrupt state Legislature in the country.

It’s time to change the rules for selecting candidates in New York and end this chicanery.

But guess who controls the process for changing the rules. Yup. The very people who’ve benefited this undemocratic process and, by extension, the political leadership that put them there.

Some lawmakers have tried, and failed.

One bill, (A522/S1797), co-sponsored by a Manhattan assemblywoman who herself won her seat in a special election, would allow for independent nominating petitions to be presented and provide for a vote to be held 45 days from the date of the governor declaring a special election. The bill went nowhere.

Another bill, with only an Assembly sponsor, (A599), would amend the current rules regarding special primary elections, including establishing a time line for the governor to set a special election and increasing ballot access by lowering petition signature requirements.

Both would give potential candidates time to come forward, raise money, collect petitions and do whatever else they needed to do to run a viable race.

Any of these would be more democratic than the current process.

The only way they’ll do anything is if you use your voices and demand a change.

Otherwise, it will remain business as usual.

And that’s just what the politicians hope will happen.

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